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Factors That Lead to World War I

An essay discussing the factors that lead to World War One, including militarism, paranoia and nationalism.

While colonial and economic rivalry fuelled hostile feelings between the European great powers, there were many other factors equally if not more important in contributing to World War I. Nationalism caused friction between the Great Powers as it developed further, and caused nations to look for an excuse to go for war in revenge for territory lost, such as France’s quest to reclaim Alsace  and Lorraine. The complicated alliance system caused paranoia, and meant any war would become a problem involving all the Great Powers.  Also causing paranoia was militarism, which meant all nations would be ready for war at the drop of a hat.

Nationalism, the love of one’s country, made people more willing to defend their country and their way of life but as it developed it caused problems that contributed to the war. Extreme nationalism made peacefully solving problems between nations hard, because each country believed that they were right. Countries also sought revenge and waited for the opportunity to declare war on other countries they had been defeated by before to get back lost land and pride. The people of France passed on to schoolchildren the idea of hating Germany, and the need to get back Alsace and Lorraine, lost French territory. Nationalism also helped contribute to the war by uniting independent states into one country, such as Italy and Germany. Had Germany not become one powerful country, Austria-Hungary wouldn’t have been able to declare war on Serbia in response to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand as easily since it would have had had no guarantee of support, and it knew Russia would support Serbia. The war wouldn’t have lasted as long without Germany involved, as the sides would be uneven and Austria-Hungary would have lost quickly. Also, it’s likely not as many countries would have been involved, as less alliance systems would be in place.

Paranoia between the Great Powers resulted in many alliances being formed, meaning any small war would become a large-scale war as countries joined the war to support their allies. Also,  the power of having other countries ready to support you in case of war resulted in war in some cases. Without Germany’s promise of unconditional support, it is doubtful that Austria-Hungary would have declared war on Serbia. In that light, a specific alliance caused the war. But in a more general sense, alliances contributed to World War One in terms of tension between the Great Powers and size, as there were more men to fight.

Militarism contributed to the outbreak of World War One because it encouraged an arms race and tension between the Great Powers. With armies ready to be mobilized and secret battle plans in place, which resulted in spies, hatred and fear grew, making war practically inevitable. With that in mind, Germany wanted to fight Russia now, as it knew it ten years or so Russia would have the strength to crush Germany.

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